Sunday, March 27, 2016

Settling debts

Somewhere in Palatine, Illinois, an envelope will arrive tomorrow bearing our final mortgage payment to Ditech Financial. It has been a long 18 years of payments on this very old house, watching the balance decline to a point where one little insurance settlement does the trick and now we own the place.

It came at a cost. We have not kept up with the gradual decline of the house. The kitchen and bathroom have both missed at least two generations of remodeling. Cheap building materials from the early 1970s were not intended to last this long, and they haven’t. Refinancing the house 5 or 10 years ago to pull money out to do sensible remodels and repairs would have been a fine choice, and it’s a choice that we watched plenty of friends make. Somehow we never got organized enough with plans to do that ourselves. Maybe next year.

So I know this stage won’t last long. We’ll have to borrow money on the house again to do necessary repairs over the next couple of years, or we’ll move to another place and take out a new mortgage. And with taxes and utilities and insurance, the mortgage was less than half of our monthly house expenses anyway, not counting the inevitable repairs. But we decided many years ago that it would be nice to pay off our mortgage if we did stay in the house, and we kept our eye on that ball, and here we are.

I’m also keenly aware that we are incredibly lucky. I bought this house back when an entire house near Boston was only $225,000. The lack of lending standards back then that eventually destroyed our economy also allowed me to “qualify” for a mortgage in the first place. Our income has been stable enough that we never had to miss payments, and we didn’t run into some other crisis that meant missing payments.

Despite the contemporary view that it’s gauche (not just rare) to have a mortgage burning party, I want to celebrate our good luck. After all, graduations and weddings and even birthdays depend on luck as well. I remember my parents burning copies of their mortgage documents in the fireplace. It was the one and only time they ever used the fireplace in the house I grew up in. I’m thinking I’ll use my Weber grill instead, the one made by Weber-Stephen Products of Palatine, Illinois. For just one blazing minute, let them be the Palatine company to hold our mortgage instead.

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